Alphabet Playpen

We know our ABCs. The words we type every day combine and recombine letters in hundreds of thousands of patterns. We play with the sounds letters make, stringing together consonant and dissonant phrases. But rarely do we play with letters just for the heck of it, for the sheer enjoyment of uttering RRRRRRRRRR! and eeeeeeeee! Should you feel the urge to play with your letters rather than arrange them in dutiful semantic chunks, look no further than abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz, musician-poet Jörg Piringer’s new app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. According to the author, this sound poetry toy will let you “Create and control tiny sound-creatures in the shape of letters that react to gravity or each other and generate rhythms and soundscapes.” Take a peek at the demo video:

The real fun is in combining letter sounds and behaviors from different modes, from the rising pitches and visual trails of “birds” mode to the small pulsing beats of “crickets” mode. With headphones on, you can clearly hear sounds pass from one ear to the other as a letter trots from one side of the screen to the other.

Piringer focused on the level of the letter rather than the word, which frees up the work from language barriers and earns it replay value. If he had used colors and shapes rather than letters the app would have been just as enjoyable. Using plain black letters as the interactive unit, however, shifts the work from pure entertainment to something that is also literary. It’s as if seeing and hearing letters triggers tiny word receptors in our brains, firing off all sorts of associations and semantic stirrings. Another good interaction design choice that Piringer made is the ability to start right back where you left off without having to “save”–something we take for granted with a bound paper volume but that is too often missing in digital literature. Taking usability cues from software and game design is essential to shaping a good digital reading experience.

More about the work and the author at http://joerg.piringer.net/abcdefg.

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One thought on “Alphabet Playpen

  1. oh man oh man oh man, that’s awesome! i wish i had an iphone or ianything, damn. i could listen to that forever. that’s amazing.

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